With growing domestic tourism demand in 2021, coupled with a record number of airlines operating flights to Newquay, the Cornwall-based airport will need to consider expanding in the next few years if the destination can sustain demand.

Ten airlines are now operating domestic routes to Newquay Airport, including some of Europe’s top carriers such as easyJet, Ryanair and British Airways. The record number of airlines now flying to the airport directly connects Newquay to all corners of the UK and Northern Ireland, enabling it to recapture its initial growth between 2015 and 2019.

Increased domestic air traffic will drive future growth

Newquay Airport is no stranger to rapid growth. According to the airport’s website, before the pandemic, it witnessed an 83% growth in arrivals between 2015 and 2019, reaching approximately 461,000 at the end of this time scale. Naturally, the trend bucked due to the Covid-19 outbreak in 2020 and 2021, with many flights grounded due to travel restrictions. However, the figures show that the popularity of the area was growing considerably prior to the pandemic. In addition, the pandemic has accelerated the trend for summer staycations in 2021 and 2022, due to the continuation of quarantine measures and international travel restrictions across Europe.

The increase in airlines operating to the airport is also an excellent opportunity for Cornwall to win new markets and tourists. Airline newcomers to the airport are Ryanair and British Airways and they will open a realm of potential new leisure and business travellers, driving future growth. This increase also means most of the Flybe slots lost due to the airline’s bankruptcy are replaced, covering the shortfall.

Moreover, the government plans to scrap domestic air passenger duty could increase demand to Cornwall quickly by lowering the cost of flights. This legislation will undoubtedly be welcomed by budget carrier giants, EasyJet and Ryanair, which are likely to pass on these savings to the consumer. This law may be a short-term measure, but it is an additional opportunity for the airport to build on the shortfall of international travel. Ultimately, the exposure to more major airlines means there is potential to create a more diverse network as the pandemic eases, providing demand is sustainable.

Projections show demand will increase for Cornwall in the future

The challenge is whether Cornwall as a destination can sustain demand after 2022, but the signs are looking positive. In May 2021, Airbnb reported that rentals in Cornwall surpassed London as the most popular summer location. Likewise, according to GlobalData’s tourism demands and flows database, domestic visits to the south-west of England will increase by a CAGR (compound annual growth rate) of 7% from 2021 to 2025. Furthermore, in 2022, most international restrictions will likely be lifted depending on Europe’s vaccination progress, meaning an increase in international tourism is imminent. Therefore, Newquay Airport must consider expansion over the next few years to cope with rapidly growing domestic and international traffic.

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